With the AFC East in transition, can the Bills make a move?
updated 3:55 PM EDT, February 10, 2014
The AFC East looks like a volatile brew for 2014.
With major changes happening on coaching staffs or in front offices of the other three clubs, it can be argued the New York Jets are the division's most stable team.
While on Friday's edition of "TSN Drive" with host Dave Naylor, we discussed the changes happening in the AFC East and whether the New England Patriots are on the verge of finally being knocked off their virtually perennial perch.
You can listen to the audio segment below, but here are some transitional highlights to consider:
The Bills lost perhaps their most important assistant coach, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who left to become Cleveland Browns head coach. Pettine took Bills defensive assistants Jim O'Neil, Jeff Hafley and Anthony Weaver with him.
The Bills seemed to do well by quickly hiring former Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz and adding former Patriots assistant Pepper Johnson, but Schwartz runs a different style of defense than Pettine did. What will it look like?
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett will cede his quarterback coaching duties to Todd Downing.
General Manager Doug Whaley will be fully responsible for his first draft class in May.
And there are so many questions around second-year quarterback EJ Manuel that even if none of the above mattered, the Bills still would be facing more than enough uncertainty.
The Dolphins might be the most dysfunctional team in the league. They had a season that would capsize most organizations but somehow stayed afloat and nearly made the playoffs.
The Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal still lingers and played a significant role in owner Stephen Ross deciding major changes needed to be made. Various moves over the past couple months revealed a front-office soap opera starring executive vice president of football administration Dawn Aponte.
General Manager Jeff Ireland was fired, and the Dolphins struggled to fill an opening more hazardous than plutonium. Patriots player personnel director Nick Caserio reportedly turned down the position after interviewing twice. The Dolphins had a respected assistant GM, Brain Gaine, who was passed over and left for the Houston Texans. The Dolphins hired Dennis Hickey away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill's development has been impressive, but offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was booted. Bill Lazor, a former University at Buffalo assistant who coached the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterbacks last season, will call Tannehill's plays now.
New England Patriots
One can posit the Patriots are stable as long as Bill Belichick is head coach and Tom Brady is quarterback. But the coaching staff has undergone radical changes over the past couple months.
Gone is longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, an assistant many feel is a worthwhile Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate. He was a Patriots assistant for 30 years and molded many a project into a formidable starter.
Also gone is 15-year assistant Pepper Johnson and tight ends coach George Godsey. Johnson's departure to the Bills will sting a little more. Johnson has an intimate knowledge on the Patriots' inner-workings.
New York Jets
The Jets belong under the big top, with calliope music. Rex Ryan is on the hot seat every year. The media scrutiny is unlike any other team's in the division.
As with the Bills, the Jets have a second-year quarterback who provides more questions than comfort. Geno Smith must be better this year if the Jets want to contend.
A year after firing their GM and losing Pettine to the Bills, the Jets have emphasized continuity for 2014. Their GM, head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators and quarterback remain the same -- although special-teams coordinator Ben Kotwica left for Washington.
Jets owner Woody Johnson continues to support Ryan, who fields a competitive team and a difficult defense every year despite the distractions (many self-inflicted).